Trial starts in the Hina Family Murders

Trial starts in the Hina Family Murders today. The Hina Family was killed during a 1989 fatal fire at a Keene apartment complex, New Hampshire.

From the SFGate: “David McLeod has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder. He is accused of igniting a blaze in a drug-fueled rage on Jan. 14, 1989, in the apartment building where his ex-girlfriend lived killing Carl and Lori Hina, their 4-month-old daughter, Lillian, and Carl Hina‘s 12-year-old daughter, Sara.

Though McLeod was an early suspect, he was not arrested for more than two decades, in part because so many of the witnesses were drunk the night of the blaze or were uncooperative with authorities during the initial probe.”

It will be interesting to read more about the forensic arson investigations. The situation reminds me of the Kenneth Richey case, a former death row case from the state of Ohio. Richey too was accused of setting a fire to get back at a former girlfriend and her current partner who lived in an apartment complex. In that fire, the daughter of Richey’s then-girlfriend died of smoke inhalation.

Key in this case is whether this was an accidental fire or arson. One witness now deceased, Sandra Walker, told authorities about smoking in bed and falling asleep. She indicated that was how the fire started that set the apartment complex ablaze. However, her explanation did not seem to match the speed and the nature of the fire making experts at that time believe the fire to be arson.

I have followed this case in the papers and have found very little about the forensic arson analysis. Were any accelerants found? We know from past cases that some accidental fires were ruled arson only to be reversed on appeal. Those cases were re-examined with modern technology. Just look up the case of Cameron Todd Willingham to see how forensic arson detection has evolved.

I will update this post as the trial moves along.